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12 Things You Can Only Find on Norwegian Cruise Line
12 Things You Can Only Find on Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line History

Ashley Kosciolek
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Norwegian Escape

Norwegian Escape

Who is Norwegian Cruise Line's CEO? Harry Sommer (2020–)

What year was Norwegian Cruise Line founded? 1966

Which vessels are in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet?

  • Norwegian Bliss
  • Norwegian Breakaway
  • Norwegian Dawn
  • Norwegian Encore
  • Norwegian Epic
  • Norwegian Escape
  • Norwegian Gem
  • Norwegian Getaway
  • Norwegian Jade
  • Norwegian Jewel
  • Norwegian Joy
  • Norwegian Pearl
  • Norwegian Sky
  • Norwegian Spirit
  • Norwegian Star
  • Norwegian Sun
  • Pride of America

See the complete list.

Contact your cruise line.

Norwegian's history begins, not surprisingly, in Norway. Starting with one ship in 1966, Norwegian Cruise Line, originally dubbed Norwegian Caribbean Line, was established through a partnership between Carnival Cruise Line founder Ted Arison and Knut Kloster of Oslo-based Klosters Rederi A/S, one of Norway's oldest and most respected shipping firms.

Norwegian's first ship, Sunward, repositioned from Europe to the then-obscure Port of Miami for Caribbean cruising. It left the fleet in 1976. The line added five more vessels -- Starward, Skyward, Seaward (which never sailed), Southward, Sunward and Sunward II -- by 1977, followed by the former S/S France (which was renamed Norway) in 1979.

The line added just one ship -- Seaward (later Norwegian Sea) -- during the 80s. The vessel was notable because it was Norwegian's first new-build, and was named after one of the line's previous ships, which never actually sailed before it was sold.

In the 90s, Norwegian underwent a major expansion, bringing several vessels into the fray, including Westward (which only sailed for Norwegian from 1991 to 1994), Norwegian Star, Leeward, Norwegian Crown, Norwegian Dynasty (which only sailed for Norwegian from 1997 to 1999) and Norwegian Majesty, as well as new-builds Dreamward (later Norwegian Dream), Windward (later Norwegian Wind), Norwegian Spirit (1998) and Norwegian Sky (1999). The line also shed some ships in the 90s, including Skyward and Sunward II in 1991, Southward in 1994 and Starward in 1995.

Also in the 90s, Norwegian acquired one-ship Orient Lines in 1998, operating it as a separate entity from Norwegian Cruise Line. It ran as a sister company until 2008 when its ship, Marco Polo, was sold off and not replaced.

Malaysia-based Genting Hong Kong (then Star Cruises) acquired Norwegian in 2000. As a result of the investment by Star Cruises, the largest Asian-based cruise line, Norwegian underwent an unprecedented new-build growth spurt that resulted in the introduction of ships specifically designed to carry out its Freestyle innovations, which pioneered the concept of dining when you want and with whom you want while wearing whatever you want.

Ships that joined the fleet in the early 2000s included Norwegian Sun (2001), sister ship to Norwegian Sky; Norwegian Star (2001) and Norwegian Dawn (2002); and Norwegian Jewel (2005), Pride of Hawaii (later Norwegian Jade), Norwegian Pearl (2007) and Norwegian Gem (2007). With the exception of Norwegian Spirit, all were new-builds for the line. In 2003, Norwegian Cruise Line took Norway out of service, though it didn't sell the ship off until 2005. Ships that left the fleet in the 2000s were Leeway in 2000, Norwegian Crown in 2004, Norwegian Sea in 2005, Norwegian Wind in 2007 and Norwegian Majesty in 2009.

Also while under Genting's leadership, Norwegian acquired Independence and SS United States, historic ships, which never actually sailed.

In 2005, Norwegian purpose built American-flagged Pride of America as part of a U.S.-based fleet that was set to offer Hawaii-only sailings under Norwegian Cruise Line offshoot NCL America. During construction, a storm caused the ship to partially sink, which set the project back. To meet its deadline, the company renamed Norwegian Sky as Pride of Aloha and had its flag changed to the U.S. so it could begin round trip voyages from Honolulu. The pair was joined in 2006 by Pride of Hawaii. When the sailings failed to be as popular as Norwegian anticipated, NCL America was dissolved. Pride of Hawaii was reflagged in 2007 and renamed Norwegian Jade, becoming part of the line's Jewel Class of ships. Pride of Aloha was reflagged a year later, and its name was changed back to Norwegian Sky. Pride of America remains as the line's only American-flagged and full-time Hawaii vessel.

In 2007, Norwegian entered into another chapter when private equity firm Apollo Management agreed to become a 50-percent owner of the cruise line, sharing leadership with Genting Hong Kong (which, as of 2016, is no longer a major shareholder in the company). The cost for half the company? A mere $1 billion. In early 2008, TPG Capital, another private equity firm, acquired a 12.5 percent stake in the cruise line.

Following Apollo's involvement, Norwegian Epic (2010) and Breakaway-class vessels Norwegian Breakaway (2013) and Norwegian Getaway (2014) marked the beginning of the line's foray into the construction of mega-ships, featuring onboard attractions that range from dinner theater and top-deck ropes courses to improv comedy and Broadway productions. In 2012, in between taking ownership of Norwegian Epic and the two Breakaway-class ships, Norwegian Dream was transferred to the Genting Hong Kong-owned cruise line, Star Cruises.

In 2014, Norwegian acquired Prestige Cruises International from Apollo Management, along with that company's brands, Oceania Cruises and luxury line Regent Seven Seas. The overall publicly traded corporation is called Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., which is led by President and CEO Frank Del Rio.

Since the merger, four more new-builds have been launched as part of the line's Breakaway-Plus Class: Norwegian Escape (2015), Norwegian Joy (2017), Norwegian Bliss (2018) and Norwegian Encore (2019). Norwegian Joy was originally to be called Norwegian Bliss but was renamed when the line decided to base the ship in Asia. Norwegian then recycled the moniker for the next Breakaway-Plus vessel, which launched in 2018. In 2019, the cruise line repositioned Norwegian Joy to North America and launched the last-in-class Breakaway-Plus ship Norwegian Encore.

Also in the works are four brand-new ships, which will join the fleet as part of what's being called "Project Leonardo": one per year, between 2022 and 2025 with the option for two more in 2026 and 2027.

Updated February 21, 2020

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